Following on from my blog post about the teacher who got in trouble for twittering, I’ve had a little bit of time to think about some of the implications of this. I was also given this link to the same story as reported in the Daily Telegraph which makes things sound a little worse.
My first response is that this story would never have hit the media were it not for the mention of Twitter, which seems to be the tech buzzword of the moment. And I do think that there is more than just a hint of overreaction from the local authority.
But the situation is worrying – I’m trying to promote the use of Twitter as a way for teachers to build up a network of experts that they can draw upon when needed, and stories like this are going to discourage teachers from taking it up.
Taking some of the quotes from a “parent” and a “local councillor”
“She is paid a lot of money to do her job and it is unbelievable that she sitting talking about them on a computer rather than teaching.”
“I do not pay my council tax so that staff can waste time on these sites.”
“People should be spending time with real people rather than with cyber friends.”
“It is a drain on public resources. It’s shocking.”
All of which show a basic lack of understanding about what Twitter is and how it is being used. The one about “cyber friends” is an interesting one. Personally, if I have any question about teaching, I can ask my network on Twitter and get an answer within minutes is an amazing thing, and is one of the reasons why I recommend Twitter to teachers.
The General Teaching Council for England has a code of conduct for teachers. You can read it here. (There is a similar one for Scotland here). There is new guidance in draft form at present, but for now this is the one that will be applied to us. The code of conduct states that:
Registered teachers may be found to be guilty of unacceptable professional conduct
1. Seriously demean or undermine pupils, their parents, carers or colleagues, or act towards them in a manner which is discriminatory in relation to gender, marital status, religion, belief, colour, race, ethnicity, class, sexual orientation,disability or age
8. Otherwise bring the reputation and standing of the profession into serious disrepute.
Which is a bit of a “cover-all” statement that seems to cover any manner of behaviours.
So if a teacher is using social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter then you do need to be aware that these guidelines could apply to your actions.
This is particularly true with Facebook. I have heard of some schools where the Head has banned all members of staff from having a Facebook account. Personally, I don’t think that’s a fair way to deal with it. Facebook is a very useful way of keeping in touch with friends and family around the world and I don’t think the way to react to it is to just ban it outright.
I wrote about this last year, here’s the blog post, and this is something I warn my PGCE students about as they make the transition from Student to professional teacher.
When using Facebook, it is probably a good idea to stick to the following rules
- Make your profile visible to Friends Only, (limited access), Only people you add as a friend can see your status updates.
- Make your photographs visible to Friends Only.
- Be careful about who you add as a friend. Do not add students, past or present.
- Do not use your status updates to complain about particular classes or students.
Be aware that anyone you add as a friend will be able to see your updates. You can still set up groups of friends that have limited access, so you may want to consider that as an option.
I have no problem with a school that blocks facebook access via their network. But blocking staff from having an account is unreasonable action in my opinion.
With Twitter, the problems are similar. Be aware that anything you say can be taken out of context. We all like to have a moan and a gripe about particular students in the confines of the staffroom, but should these comments be shared in a public space.
The first thing for teachers to consider is to protect their updates. I used to think this defeated the point of twitter, but you might want to consider that as an option. By protecting your updates you have a measure of control over who can read what you say.
This does not mean that what you say cannot be re-tweeted by one of your followers though. It’s not going to be completely private.
So what is fair for teachers to say on Twitter, and what might bring them into disrepute? How would your headteacher react if they saw some of the things you said. What about a parent? Or a Student?
Would you want students reading that Set X is full of nutters? Or that you are too hungover to teach well today? Should you be discussing job interviews or arguments/disagreements you have had with other members of staff? Would you be in trouble for putting forward your political or religious views (or lack of them)
I may say that I am mustering the energy to mark a stack of student assignments, but I wouldn’t use Twitter to complain about the general quality of them – or to say how many failed etc. That’s something I would keep until I saw my students again and told them face to face.
It may well be that what is being said is tongue-in-cheek and not meant in a serious way. But looking back at the way the Twittering Teacher story was reported, tweets were cherry-picked and quoted out of context. If your headteacher did that to you, would you be able to explain them away?
What should you do if a parent followed you on Twitter? Or a student? How would the things you are saying come across to a parent?
Is there mileage in teachers having two accounts. One that’s personal and not linked to the school which they can protect. And one which is more for school use?
I’m not giving many answers here. I don’t have the answers. And only you will know how your headteacher would respond if a parent made a comment about the content of your twitter stream or your personal blog.
I think the news story last week has been a bit of a wake-up call to teachers. Twitter may well be the buzzword of the moment, and maybe in a year’s time we will all have stopped using it for something new. But the principles will remain. How do we, as teachers, exist in these online spaces? How can we teach responsible use to our students if we are less responsible ourselves. How is it fair that a doctor can have a twitter or facebook account, but not a teacher?
If the headteachers policy is to ban all these tools and pretend they don’t exist, how can we teach responsible use? Why do schools even bother with filtering when students can access all this via their mobile phones anyway?
I’d be interested in knowing what you think. Please discuss this in the comments. If you would rather have the comments on her anonymously, then mail me, and I’ll copy the text as a comment and leave out any names.
Update: And if you want to explain to your head why you should be using Twitter in the Classroom, use this excellent presentation by Tom Barrett.Read More
I was half way through delivering a course on how to use Web 2.0 in the classroom when I saw a headline on the BBC news website that stopped me in my tracks for a second: Probe into Teacher Twitter Posts. I was gobsmacked when I read it.
Now I will agree that a teacher does need to realise that their twitter feed can be read by more than just their close group of friends (unless you protect your updates I guess) and so as such it’s not really professional to complain about students in a way that they could be identified.
I am being followed by a few of my PGCE students. I may have tweeted in the past that I am trying to muster the energy to mark their stack of assignments, but I wouldn’t be tweeting about how many failed etc (if any) since that’s unfair on the students to hear it that way. I wouldn’t complain about any of the students on Twitter (although, since they’re actually a lovely bunch this year I don’t need to any way!)
Now the article does say
“The teacher in question is not facing disciplinary action, although the council is looking into the matter.”
Which makes you wonder what the story really is here. And how it ended up on the BBC site? And I’m concerned that the BBC can see fit to just take a teachers tweets and use them out of context
It does seem to me that there’s a bit of a knee-jerk reaction to Twitter recently. A few months back there was a story about a magistrate who resigned after complaints that he was twittering about cases. Again the real story was that the council completely misunderstood how Twitter was being used. In fact it was being used to make the workings of the court more transparent, and no private info was being revealed.
So what do you think about this? If a teacher is twittering during a class then maybe there is an argument that they are not fully focussed on their teaching. How would the teacher react if students were twittering during the lesson? But to blast a teacher for using Twitter at all?
One sentence from the BBC article that amazed me was this one:
Argyll and Bute Council policy states that teachers may access professional blogs which have educational value but are not allowed to have their own blog.
Really?? They are not allowed to have a blog?
As one of my Twitter followers Kate pointed out – “who is writing these professional blogs that Bute teachers are allowed to read? Surely not other teachers then?” And that’s a good point.
Is this true? Can anyone who works for Argyll and Bute let me know if this is actual policy?
How can Argyll and Bute ban teachers from having their own blogs? That’s totally unreasonable and goes against much of the guidance being offered on the Learning and Teaching Scotland’s own advice site, who says things like:
A key use for blogs in the education world is the keeping of a Teacher Learning Log, or an Edublog. This is not about filing away CPD courses you’ve done, but reflecting on the day-to-day work done in the classroom and how it might be done differently, better or in collaboration with someone else ‘out there’. Normally, you’ll quickly make contacts with like-minded souls – but only if you have already contributed something to the bigger picture by writing about your experiences regularly.
Sharing ideas with others
The edublogging world is a compassionate place where people are always willing to help out with advice, tips or just reassurance that you’re doing it correctly. They will even share resources and good links. But it works both ways – share and share alike and you will feel your teaching changing as real-time reflection and deep thinking take place away from the hubbub of school.
Or how about from this page?
LTS encourages its staff to read, comment on, and start their own blogs, podcasts and wikis. These software applications can be invaluable in the workplace, school or learning environment. They allow people to collaborate, learn, and communicate in ways which weren’t possible before.
So Learning and Teaching Scotland is encouraging teachers to set up blogs, but individual councils are then banning teachers from doing this? There’s some mixed messages going on here.
I seem to get the impression that they don’t really understand blogging and twittering, and so they’d rather just block and ban it.
I have seen some excellent teacher blogs. Many of them share good practise and examples of the excellent work their students are doing. Many of them share lots of good ideas with the education community.
I will agree that teacher blogs should not really be making negative comments about students, that is unprofessional. And if the teacher is doing that, then a quiet word in their ear from their line manager may be appropriate to stop them making comments about the school or pupils.
There is some excellent guidance on what you can and can’t say on your blog on the LTS site, which does seem to explain things better. And these are some good guidelines to work around.
It does lead to some interesting discussions – and there was a lot of shock about the story on the twittering teaching community yesterday afternoon when it came out.
What is becoming more evident is for school management to get themselves up to speed on these new ways of communication and to understand them, before they start issuing disciplinary action. I’m hoping that the full story comes out soon and I’m also hoping that there’s been some serious misreporting here and that maybe this has been sensationalised a little.
Over to you.
Why does Argyll and Bute Education promote weblogs in schools?
Education’s continued development of Information and Communications Technology
(ICT) in Argyll and Bute, includes the promotion of modern methods of communication
across schools and the wider community.
So it looks like the quote about them banning teachers from having blogs is probably nonsense. I wonder who gave that quote, and why?Read More
Here’s a couple of quick links to put a little awe and wonder onto your Interactive Whiteboard (or just your computer screen in general)
As a space geek I am always a sucker for the images that the Hubble Space Telescope takes of deep space. They are absolutely awesome.
And with the current Space Shuttle mission to upgrade Hubble taking place, this is a great time to bring a little newsworth science into the classroom.
One of my favourite image sites, The Big Picture has a collection of amazing images of the Space Shuttle launch and astronauts working on the Hubble telescope. These would be great as part of a lesson introduction to have on the IWB.
Would make good discussion starters – why are the astronauts floating like that? What materials do you think their space suits are made of and why? What do you think it would be like to look down on the Earth like that? What energy changes take place when the shuttle launches etc.
The image gallery is here. And look around the site for some more excellent images on a wide range of subjects. All can provide a little awe and wonder when viewed large on an interactive whiteboard.
If you want some images taken by the Hubble telescope itself, then you can download a wide variety of them from this site. Again, some awesome images that really show how huge the universe actually is.
And finally, if you ever want to see what an astronaut thinks about space, then follow Astro_Mike on Twitter. He’s up there right now and he’s twittering about life up in space. Twitter is excellent – but to have people twittering from space is another level of awesomeness.
I’ve posted before about how I’ve become a huge fan of Twitter. I’ve demonstrated it on my Web 2.0 courses and I get the impression that a lot of people are either unimpressed and can’t see the point, or are overwhelmed at the idea of this huge stream of information. And I’d agree that for the uninitiated, looking at someone elses Twitter stream go flooding past can be a little like trying to decipher The Matrix.
I’ve found Twitter invaluable as a personal learning network. But there is a critical mass to it. If you only follow a few people it can seem quite dull. For it to be useful, you need to start following a lot of people. And hopefully entice those people to follow you.
Here are some tips to help you make the most of Twitter.
1. Follow a few key people. Lurk for a while and see who they talk to. Click on the names of the people they talk to and read their bios. If they seem like interesting people, follow them too. (Edit – yes this does sound a little like stalking! But it’s an effective way of finding new people to follow…)
2. Use some of the search tools to find people. Try Twitter search to see who’s talking about things you are interested in. Or Monitter. If you see people using hashtags, eg #uksnow or #teachmeet they are making it easier to follow one particular topic. Search for that phrase on twitter search to see other people talking about the same topic. You can also try some of the Twitter directories such as WeFollow – don’t forget to add yourself to the directory too!
3. Make sure you put something in your bio. Mention that you are a teacher or have an interest in web2.0. If you follow people they will look at your profile and make a decision whether to follow you or not. If you don’t have many updates you may look a little like a spammer Letting them know your interests will let them make a judgement about following you back.
4. Use a Twitter client such as Tweetdeck. It runs in the background and automatically updates itself. Makes it easy to see straight away any @messages or direct messages.
5. Twitter on your mobile with dabr.co.uk. It’s a much slicker site to use than the original twitter one when accessing it via a mobile phone.
6. Don’t feel you have to keep up with everything that is being said. Dip in and out. You will never absorb every message that’s being posted by the people you are following. Check it from time to time and scan through the posts for anything interesting.
7. Message people directly by putting an @ sign in front of their username – eg @dannynic will make sure the message is seen by me. Clicking on the @yourusername link in Twitter will show every message sent directly to you, whatever time of day it was sent.
8. Don’t be afraid to lurk for a while – follow people and listen to the conversation. Lurking is not a bad thing. Join in when you feel ready.
9. Have fun! Twitter is all about conversation and networking. Talk to people and share.
10. Learn to love the Fail Whale. It’s just a sign that Twitter is too busy and can’t yet cope with lots of people. Go do something else and try again later.
Here are some other posts that you might find useful
Have fun!Read More